PASSINGS: Ross Hagen, Joe M. Sanchez


Ross Hagen

Actor was a regular on TV’s ‘Daktari’

Ross Hagen, 72, a handsomely rugged actor who was a regular on the 1960s TV series “Daktari” and starred in the low-budget biker movies “The Hellcats” and “The Sidehackers,” died of prostate cancer May 7 at home in Brentwood, said Lee Srednick, his partner of seven years.


Launching his career in the 1960s with guest shots on TV series such as “The Big Valley” and “The Virginian,” Hagen also appeared in the Elvis Presley movie “Speedway” and the motorcycle movie “The Mini-Skirt Mob.”

In 1968, he joined the cast of “Daktari,” the CBS adventure series starring Marshall Thompson as an American veterinarian running an animal study center in Africa. Hagen played Bart Jason, a former wild animal hunter who had become a photographic safari guide, until the series ended in 1969.

Hagen also was a writer, producer and director, whose credits as a writer and director include “Time Wars” and “The Media Madman.”

He was born Leland Lando Lilly on May 21, 1938, in Williams, Ariz., and grew up on a farm in Oregon.

Hagen, who served a stint in the Army, was married twice and had two children, Bob Lilly and Julie Lilly-Beloit, with his first wife. He and his second wife, actress Claire Polan, were married from 1963 until her death in 2003.

Joe M. Sanchez


L.A.’s first modern-day Latino fire commissioner

Joe M. Sanchez, 77, a grocer who was the first Latino fire commissioner in Los Angeles in modern times, died May 10 at his Los Feliz home after a long illness, his family said.

After Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to the Fire Commission, Sanchez served from 1973 to 1978, including three years as president.

He became known as a strong voice for minority hiring and training programs to better serve the city’s Spanish-speaking residents.

Sanchez was “a great man — a pioneer of equality,” Councilman Tom LaBonge said last year when a plaque was installed in Sanchez’s honor at Fire Station No. 1 in Lincoln Heights.

“My job on the commission was to fight the status quo,” Sanchez said in a 2010 statement, “and to demand that the department change to be more reflective of the city it served.”

One of eight children, Sanchez was born June 2, 1933, in Albuquerque and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 8.

As a teenager, he worked at a discount grocery store and later went into the wholesale grocery business. His discount retail outlets grew to include the La Quebradita grocery stores, in East Los Angeles and Pico Rivera, and Civic Center Sales, now in Lincoln Heights.

In 1977, Sanchez helped found the Mexican American Grocers Assn., a Los Angeles-based trade organization of independent food store owners.

-- Los Angeles Times staff reports